Never Play The Monkees on Low: A Chapter’s Farewell

Last week, I went to see Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith – the two remaining Monkees – perform live. This isn’t my first post-concert write-up. But it will be my last. Because my boys came out one more time just to say farewell. 

I could talk about the concert in detail. How the familiar energy washed over me at the first chords of the opener, “Good Clean Fun.” How the band was somehow able to play songs I’ve heard a thousand times over and make them seem all shiny-new, but also like trusted old friends at the same time. How Micky raised a bar I didn’t think could be raised any higher with his inspired performance of “As We Go Along.” Or how it warmed my heart to see him and Nez so readily accepting the love from the fans and returning it freely. 

But instead, I’m going to talk about my fan origin story, and the moment that brought it all full circle for me.

In the second half of the show, Nez began a little storytelling introduction to the song “While I Cry.” He was expressing what the music of the Monkees has meant to him, and recalled a time when he was listening to some of the records, but noted that he turned the volume down low, lest he would be found out for listening to The Monkees. Then he quipped, “We’ve all been there.” The audience gave a knowing laugh. I smiled, because I understood the allusion to a societal expectation of embarrassment at being a fan of a manufactured band who “didn’t play their own instruments.”

But even as I smiled, I thought to myself, “Actually,…no. I’ve never been there.”

Just the night before, I had been chatting with a friend about my excitement for the show, and it being a kind of celebratory cap on what simply began as the weird kid who took a liking to a band older than her parents instead of New Kids on the Block or Boyz II Men, like all the normal girls her age. He commented that it must be nice to finally be at a point in my life where I didn’t have to hide my taste in music in order to fit in. But I responded, “Oh, I never hid it. That’s exactly why I WAS the weird kid.” It wasn’t so much that I liked this oldies band; it was that I openly talked about them like the fan girl I was with zero shame in my game. So no, Nez, I haven’t been there. 

The consequence of my unhindered pride is that pretty much everyone who knows me, even a tiny bit, basically considers the words “Monkees” and “Kelly” as synonyms. Okay, maybe not synonyms, but metaphysically connected…like peanut butter and jelly, or shoes and socks, or online passwords and the “I forgot my password” button. 

Somewhere in the story, the universe decided to smile upon the way I had so intertwined myself with these four guys, and it did me a solid. What started as a (very) enthusiastic childhood interest morphed into its own Pinocchio story…where the things I dreamed about while listening to the songs I loved became real. 

The little girl who could not talk anyone into taking her to see The Monkees perform at Six Flags in the 80’s (and was offered a trip to the mall as a consolation prize), ended up seeing them in concert fifteen times. (I think. Being able to lose count is a good problem to have.)

The teenager who cherished a pink flyer with Micky Dolenz’s autograph scribbled on the back (procured for her by a family friend) as the closest she would get to sharing space with him went on to one day meet her fake boyfriend in person and blabber some drivel about him making her heart so happy. A year later, she found herself singing Beatles tunes around a piano with him in a hotel bar after a concert…also winning the night with her astute compliment to him that his performance of “Porpoise Song” sounded better than the record, then abruptly walking away almost mid-conversation because she sensed she had hit her limit of intelligible words and feared what would come out of her mouth next. She also went on to have the privilege of stealing a few heartwarming moments with Peter Tork. She managed to keep her shit together while sitting across from Mike Nesmith eating a Chipotle burrito on a tour bus, and later somehow impressed him with a Facebook comment about the mythos of The Monkees…so much so that he referenced her in an interview as someone who “got it.” She even got to find out from Davy Jones himself exactly how he felt about his elbows. 

The young fan who used to fall asleep at night with her headphones on, memorizing every lyric to every song and focusing on the rhythm and beats of the drums (because that is what her favorite one played), went on to pick up some drumsticks at the age of 43 and learn something new. Not only that, but she was lucky enough to be able to take lessons from Rich Dart, a guy who started out as a Monkee fan like her only to become their touring drummer for the final (and perhaps best) decade of their performing years. 

And that weird kid, whose unabashed love for a band who was unpopular for her moment in time, who had no friends to giggle with about saving Texas prairie chickens or swoon alongside every time Micky did that heavy sigh during “Words”…she grew up to find a few other former weird kids who were just as lonely in their fandoms in their own corners of the world. And when they found each other, they finally had someone else to giggle with, and swoon alongside, and scream “Hey!” at just the right moment during “She,” and wear Monkee pajamas with, and dance next to, and debate the merits of the three different versions of “I Don’t Think You Know Me.” So when the time came to say farewell to the prospect of more opportunities for them to experience being in musical communion with their band in the same room, they also had someone else who fully understood the bittersweet mix of gratification and melancholy at watching it unfold for the last time. 

Who knows exactly why all of these beautiful things came to be for me. But I’m pretty sure never being afraid to play The Monkees as loudly as possible probably helped. 

This farewell tour certainly does not mark the end of my fandom. I will always love these guys, these songs, the television show. And I still have a lot more drumming to learn. But it does mark the end of a chapter…one that has been my favorite by far. As I have reflected on it, as one often does at the end of something, I found myself wondering exactly WHY The Monkees have been so enduringly important to me. How is it that I can feel so much for people I don’t really know at all, and feel such passion for their work which I have no personal stake in? I don’t actually have an answer, but maybe it’s just a more tangible expression of the ability to fall in love with the spirit of humanity…of joy…of connection. And I’m just happy to have had 35 years of getting the dopamine hits from it.

As I was sitting in my seat, waiting for my farewell show to begin, the lady next to us commented that I was too young to be a Monkees fan. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that, but as a now 44-year-old who has started looking at colleges for her oldest child, I was not mad at being called too young for something. But it also made me smile, because here I am, all these years later, still the weird kid in the room. But it didn’t stop me from singing every song, cheering as loudly as I could, and dancing like crazy as they closed it out with “I’m a Believer.” 

Because history has shown only good things have ever come from me not hiding my Monkee light under a steppin’ stone. 

•••

If you’re looking for a way to waste some time and want to take a walk down my Monkee Memory Lane, here are links to all the words I’ve devoted to them over the last decade:

A Completely Biased Review of the 45th Anniversary Tour – from my front row vantage point

I’ll Always Have Stars In My Eyes for the Boy from Manchester – saying goodbye to Davy Jones

The Memory of Sparkly Shoes: The Monkees 2012 Tour – the return of Nez & his Jimmy Choos

How to Enjoy MonkeeCon on $5 a Day – my review of my one and only Monkee convention

How MTV Led me to Tulsa, Oklahoma – how the 2013 concert compared to the exciting days of my budding fandom (and a personal favorite blog)

Confessions of Childhood: My Barbie was a Floozy – how The Monkees influenced my, er, imagination

I Think I Might Be a Celebrity Girlfriend – one of the ways I was blessed by a fellow fan friend

Good Times and Good Guys: I’m So Glad That I Got Them to Think Of – a reflection on the release of the Good Times album

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